He has just been crowned king of the jungle and annointed by his campmates as ‘Britain’s next national treasure’.
But Harry Redknapp might not have been here at all if a York man hadn’t rescued him after an horrific road accident.
City businessman and football fan Michael Sinclair pulled Harry from the wreckage of a minibus after it was involved in a head-on collision during the 1990 World Cup.
Paramedics, Harry said, “thought I was a goner”. But he pulled through – and charmed the nation as he spent three weeks in the Australian outback before winning I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! on Sunday (December 9).
Lucky to be alive
During his time on the show, Harry shared some details of his life with his campmates – including the fact that he has no sense of smell.
That is one of the lasting effects of his injuries sustained in the road accident 28 years ago.
A footballer turned manager, he was boss of Bournemouth at the time. He was in Rome to watch some games with the then managing director of Bournemouth Brian Tiler.
After watching Italy beat the Republic of Ireland on June 30, the pair were on board a minibus taking them back to their hotel.
Another passenger was Michael Sinclair – the owner of the well-known Mulberry Hall shop on Stonegate, and chairman of York City FC – and his son Adam.
In his autobiography, Harry wrote:
In the minibus on the way back to the hotel most of us were either asleep or dozing. That’s as much as I can remember.
Then, at around midnight, in a place called Latina, just south of Rome, I’m told a car hurtled towards us on the wrong side of the road.
I’m told it was going 90 miles per hour. I’m told the smash was so horrific that it was a miracle anyone got out alive.
Brian didn’t. Nor did the occupants of the other car, three Italian lads who all died instantly.
The force of the impact threw me out of the minibus and knocked me unconscious.
I was then dragged away from the mangled wreckage, covered in petrol, by Michael Sinclair, who was petrified by the thought that it would all explode.
Life changing experience
Brian Tiler died in the accident, along with four young Italians, including three soldiers, who were in the car.
Immediately after the accident, medics believed Harry had died too, covering him with a blanket and removing his valuables.
Later that day, Redknapp woke up in hospital with severe injuries including a fractured skull, several broken bones and a “horrific gash” on his leg.
Talking to the York Press in 2012, Michael Sinclair recalled what happened:
It was quite a narrow road and the three soldiers were coming towards us and drove slap-bang straight into us.
Our minibus overturned and went sliding down the road. I was the only one who was conscious.
I could smell petrol and I just thought ‘I have got to do what I have got to do’ and I just started pulling people out.
He managed to pull his son and Mr Redknapp to safety before help arrived.
Mr Sinclair said the experience – coupled with the death of a young player David Longhurst at Bootham Crescent a few months later – changed the course of his life.
He left the world of football and business and trained as an Anglican priest. He was ordained in 1997, and served in several North Yorkshire parishes before retiring from full-time ministry 12 years later.
Millions vote him king
Harry, now 71, was voted King of the Jungle by millions of ITV viewers. He survived three weeks in the Australian rainforest, confronting eating trials, creepy crawlies and his biggest fear, rats.
“It was very difficult, very difficult,” Harry told presenters Declan Donnelly and Holly Willoughby. Time away from his wife Sandra made it even more difficult.
He was talked into taking part in I’m A Celebrity by his grandchildren – “the grandkids drove me mad,” he told Piers Morgan and Kate Garraway on Good Morning Britain. “Sandra said they’re so upset you’re not going to do this show.”
Redknapp was reportedly the second highest paid star of the series, earning £500,000 for his time on the show.
He began his management career in the 70s, then took up his first big coaching role with Bournemouth in 1983.
He also took charge of West Ham, Portsmouth (twice), Southampton, Tottenham, QPR and then Birmingham, after a short spell as boss of Jordan’s national team. He also worked for Derby as a football adviser in 2016.
In 2008 he steered Portsmouth to victory over Cardiff in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Before he entered the jungle he said he thought it would be easier than being the boss of a losing football team.
“You haven’t got many friends when it’s not going well as a football manager. So no, I don’t think doing this will be tougher,” said the 71-year-old.
Redknapp has been with his wife Sandra for 54 years and the couple have two sons, including footballer turned pundit Jamie.
Photograph: Mark Kerton / PA Wire